Auto dealers across the state are teaming up with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to encourage car buyers to help wildlife while they personalize their purchase.
The purpose of the campaign, called "Make a Statement – Make a Difference," is to increase awareness of the personalized license plate program administered by the Department of Licensing. Money generated from the sale of these plates helps to fund statewide wildlife conservation activities through the WDFW. In July the campaign received the backing of the Washington State Auto Dealers Association.
Facing a need to boost personalized plate sales, the WDFW Wildlife Diversity Division, which manages non-game animals, earlier this year surveyed Washingtonians about their impressions of personalized license plates and found that 73 percent of respondents had at some time considered buying one. Of those, 35 percent said knowing that the proceeds go to support fish and wildlife would be the factor most likely to influence them to buy one.
Besides enlisting the support of vehicle licensing offices throughout the state to display personalized license plate posters and order forms, WDFW decided to turn efforts toward people who are buying cars.
"A car, in a way, is a personal statement, and the licenses are a way to further that," said Chuck Gibilisco, watchable wildlife specialist and head of the license plate marketing campaign for WDFW. "People are excited about purchasing a car, and they have to deal with licensing anyway, so placing information right at the table in the dealer's office seemed like a good approach."
After Gibilisco and DOL contacted the Washington State Auto Dealers Association, the dealers voted to support the program. Since receiving Association approval, more than 35 auto dealerships have requested the displays, which contain a small, full-color poster, a brochure about the program featuring examples of personalized license plates and a license application for car buyers. Gibilisco said more dealer requests are coming in daily.
"This three-way partnership is an exciting example of businesses working with state government on behalf of our natural resources," said Jeff Koenings, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. "The Personalized License Plate Program is a direct way for people to take part and make a difference in conservation. Having the applications handy when people are buying a car is really going to build awareness for this program."
"We think this partnership is an excellent opportunity to show others how business and government can work together," agreed Vicki Fabre, president of the auto dealers group. "The partnership efficiently links the private sector and government in an effort that hopefully will increase sales of the personalized license plates and subsequently, support for wildlife preservation."
The personalized license plate program, which began in 1979, helps fund the conservation and management of non-hunted and non-fished wildlife and their habitats in Washington. The program annually receives 91 percent of initial fees for personalized plates and 100 percent of renewal fees. These funds are used to support urban and backyard wildlife sanctuaries, statewide prime wildlife viewing sites, and species and habitat recovery. The program received $2.5 million from personalized license plate sales in 1999.
The initial fee for a personalized plate is $44 for a passenger vehicle and $43.50 for a motorcycle, trailer or camper, plus all other registration fees. Renewals are $30 plus annual renewal fees. In addition to participating car dealerships, motorists may pick up applications at license vendors. Applications also can be found on the Department of Licensing web site.